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Each year, Jeff Silber of BMO Capital Markets hosts their Back to School education investment conference. There are a lot of challenges in education, from new regulations, roadblocks to federal funding, a sea change in technology, and changing buying patterns. This year, ABA was pleased to be included into the program’s K12 segment, with Farimah moderating a panel on the role of the teacher in the education economy. Read more below. Also, for anyone going to Ednet next week in Denver, let us know if you want to meet. We are proud to be a sponsor of the conference. Legislative and Regulatory Update Nina Rees, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Look for continued cutbacks in federal education money, with nothing much on the horizon except a continuation of sequestration cutbacks. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) governs federal funding and regulations for K12 schools, and is supposed to be reauthorized every 5 years. The most recent reauthorization was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.While nearly everyone in Washington sees major flaws in the 2001 act, there will be no ESEA reauthorization or K12 legislation in the foreseeable future. This means that there is more action taking place at the state level, and that private foundations are having a big influence on state departments of education by lobbying and funding pet projects. Funding penalties to all states and nearly all districts for not meeting the NCLB prescriptions (legislated in 2001 and never adjusted) has given the Department of Education the opportunity to negotiate policy changes with states in return for “forgiving” non-compliance. These negotiations generally cover a two-year period, result in policies that vary state by state, and have to be renegotiated every two years. There is some pressure to change the definition of failing schools. Currently schools fail when their students to not pass grade-level tests. An alternative is that a school would fail if its students progressed at less than one year’s worth knowledge gain. If a student starts out as two years behind, there is little in the short term the school can do to bring that student up to grade level, and so the school and teacher would be labeled as failures. The change would be to recognize that perhaps the school could at least help that student from falling further behind, or start to catch up, and that that would be progress. So far, there is no change to the original definition being posited by the Department of Education, and there is little hope of any progress with the definition being changed through ESEA reauthorization in the near future, but it’s...

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SIIA Ed Tech Government Forum 2013 By definition, virtually all US public education is funded and controlled through federal, state, and local governments. The SIIA ETGF, just held April 9-10 in Washington, DC is a chance to hear from federal and state education policy wonks what is likely to happen over the next year or two. At this year’s conference, there were six themes: What is the federal funding environment What is the funding environment at the states What is happening with Common Core What is happening with the Common Assessment What about Federal Education policy and the waivers What is the outlook in higher education Federal Funding Don’t look for much. It seems that the department of education is going to allow states to reserve up to 15% of last year’s money to go into next year, as a way to soften the blow of sequestration. There do not seem to be any looming events that will force the government to come to a budget compromise, so look for sequestration to continue for at least the next 6 months, with federal education funds being cut 5-7%. Since these are the funds that are often used to purchase content, the impact on the publishing industry will be overweighted. State Funding State revenues are back up to where they were in 2007. Normally, this would be good for education, except the cost of Medicaid, which is mandated, has been growing by 5% a year. This is squeezing education spending. In general, expect some small increases in state funding of education (for the first time in five years) but a lot of that will be paying for increased pension and salary costs. Common Core State Standards Depending on how you phrase questions, states and schools are either totally unprepared or virtually completely ready. Teachers will often say that they already teach higher level skills according to the common core. Yet, when you talk to teachers about evaluation, they often respond by saying that neither they nor the students have been getting support to prepare them for the standards. Educators will say that they currently have to cover so many topics that they cannot afford to go deeply into any one, so they are looking forward to the narrower by deeper focus of the Common Core. But they will also respond that if the new curriculum skips any areas that they currently teach, they will find a way to still cover it. Practically, we will not fully know the effect of the Common Core until schools have to start administering the common assessments. Common Assessments These are due to be required for...

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Here are some amazing programs that were not designed specifically for education, but could have an incredible impact on learning. ElectNext With Election Day fast approaching, ElectNext allows everyone to find the candidates (President, Governor, Senate, Congress) that are in their district and who most resemble their  values. If you answer a series of about 10 questions (which are selected by a secret algorithm), you can view the candidate who most aligns to your answers, and then you can explore what their policies are in those areas. Plus you can look at the other candidate(s) and see where they do and don’t align with you. Can you imagine the great class discussions you could have on the issues and candidates? How many Middle School student know who is their Congressman, and what he or she stands for? And that’s just the start, plans are to expand ElectNext to help you evaluate and become active in whatever issues you are passionate about. Vantageous Vantageous will allow you to use virtually any PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone to take multi angle videos. Let’s say two students are making a presentation, or having a debate. You can use up to four devices to video the performance. You will then press play, and while the videos are running select which angle is active at any particular time. When you’re done, you can save, download, or upload your video to play or share. It’s a great addition to digital storytelling. The program should be out in the next few weeks, and you can sign up on the website for notification of when the program is ready. ThunderClap Do you want to extend your social reach to do good? ThunderClap allows you to write a message and set a target number of respondents. Once that number of people have agreed with you message, it sends out posts from each of those people to the various social networks carrying that message. Let’s say a high school class has an issue that they can get behind, like possibly supporting someone who had an accident. They may decide that they want 250 people to send out tweets or Facebook updates about it. They post a message to Thunderclap, and they talk to friends and relatives to support that issue. Once they reach 250 supporters, the posts go out. If those 250 people have an average reach of 250 people, they’ve reached over 60,000 people. Thunderclap has been used for causes like helping refugees in Sudan, and ending Polio. The UN used it to announce World Humanitarian day and reached 1 billion people. Seeds Does your class want to...

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Today, I attended the 140 Conference in NYC, which provides a unique perspective to learn how the world has changed in this age of the Real Time Web. Jeff Pulvar, the person running the 140 Conference, says the excitement is not just having 400,000 followers, it's being able to connect with people around the world; we've never had that before.   Image via Wikipedia The event features over 150 speakers, each talking for about 10 minutes. Here are my highlights from day one.   John Borthwick, CEO of betaworks a seed and venture investment company, talked about the fact that we are just starting to learn what it means to be part of a network. The Real Time Web has resulted in tremendous fragmentation and disruption of the web on three levels: Content: content is fluid, it's constantly changing and difficult to measure. Ultimately, we want to be able to make sense of things, so we need to learn to measure and curate better. Applications: we interact with different application, and, as producers and consumers we want to be able to move data more seamlessly. Networks or platforms: to what extent are the networks (like Facebook and Twitter) going to be part of an open network and integrate with other platforms, or to what extent will we find other networks that are. Gilad Lotan, VP of R&D for Social Flow, a company that improves the reach of Tweets, talked about how information is spreading so much faster today. The difficulty is not putting information out there, it's getting people's attention, and the ability to get people's attention is power. You have to build your network's trust, which is much more important than the number in your network. Trust that your message is relevant, useful, and valid is what gets people to like and spread your content. His formula is that successful propagation = topic + network + timing. And ultimately, your message has to reach an interested big fish. Steve Rosenbaum, CEO of Magnify and author of Curation Nation, demonstrated how obsessed we are with information, in that nearly everyone checks email right before going to sleep and right when we wake up. While 5 years ago, a person might categorize himself/herself as a blogger, no one calls themselves a twitter or a facebooker. What we do is filter and pass on what we think is relevant information, or we curate. A lot of the information on The Real Time Web is ephemeral, it's gone before any algorithms can react, which turns search on its head. But as a curator, you may pass something on, and before you do,...

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Do you regard the following statement as bigoted or as pragmatic? The education system should expect students with higher socio-economic status (SES) to outperform students with lower SES, and should not hold schools or teachers responsible for these differences. How about this one? Of the 1 million very poor students who will be entering Kindergarten this year, schools should strive that 25% of them reach reading proficiency, 15% reach math proficiency, and 60% graduate high school. These are complex questions. If we hold students from poorer environments to a lower standard than students from richer ones, aren't we dooming them? Wouldn't this mean they ended up with poorer skills, did not reach their full potential, and tended to end up having fewer career and life options? If we hold schools accountable for high performance education for all, but ignore the fact that SES is the strongest influence on academic performance, aren't we trying to build castles in the sky?   Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr This isn't just an academic question. This dilemma is going to be the core of the debate in reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), recently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).   Looking at the second statement, current figures are that, for those 1 million students, 17% reach reading proficiency, 8% reach math proficiency, and 50% graduate. Do we accept a goal of marked improvement (and large numbers of failed students) or do we demand total achievement? Before the accountability for results that was engineered into NCLB by the Bush administration, the education establishment proved to be immovable. Large numbers of children didn't learn even the basics. But, because there was no measurement, there were no data, there were no standards, and there were no consequences for failure, administrators, teachers, bureaucrats, and politicians were able to ignore the issues.   Image by Wesley Fryer via Flickr NCLB made a quantum change. Achievement levels were established by the states. Student knowledge was tested. Teachers and schools were held accountable.   Yet, large numbers of children still aren't learning the basics. Large numbers of schools (some would say over 70%) are in danger of being labeled as failing. Administrators, teachers, bureaucrats, and politicians have learned to game the system, becoming adept at demonstrating increasing student achievement levels based on test scores even when actual student skills and knowledge are not improving. The data indicates that there is a high correlation between schools with lower achievement and schools whose students exhibit slower growth. Thus, the schools that are doing the most poorly tend also to be the schools that have been least...

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Historically, the federal government provides between 8% to 11% of K12 education funds. The balance comes from state and local taxes, and with the recession being felt in state capitals across the country, this has meant historic reductions and seismic shifts in education systems. This month, the Rockefeller Institute released a report on state and local funding: http://www.rockinst.org/pdf/government_finance/state_revenue_report/2011-04-19-SRR_83%20rev.pdf.   Image via Wikipedia By the 3rd Quarter of 2009, state property and income were down almost 30%, sales taxes down almost 10%, and total tax revenue down over 16% from the previous year. These declines were much more severe than those of the 2002 recession, and it is no wonder that education budgets have been feeling the pain. But, we may be about to turn the corner, and it may pay to look at trends and forecasts to help predict which regions will likely experience the fastest or largest state and local revenue upswings, and as a measure of which states are more likely to ease education purse strings. As of the 4th Quarter of 2010, state taxes revenues had increased 4 quarters in a row, although, on an inflation-adjusted basis, they are still 4.3% lower than they were in 2007. Local taxes, which are primarily based on real estate, have continued to decline, though. Fastest tax revenue growth was achieved in California, New York, North Dakota, and Wyoming, with double digit declines in Alaska and Louisiana. Forty two states reported increases last quarter, with continuing growth in 45 states in the first two months of 2011. Of course, some of this increase was due to tax rate increases, with the largest ones reported in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, and New York. The states with economies increasing faster than 1% in the 4th quarter of 2010 were (from East to West), Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and California. Two states showed declines: Kansas and New Mexico. What does this all add up to? Don't look for expanding education budgets for the next few months. By the next spending cycles, there should be some easing on state budgets, especially states that are experience the fastest growth. This will not return education budgets to 2007 levels (especially in inflation adjusted terms), but the 2012-13 budgets should have lower uncertainty and none of the devastating cuts of the last few years. Then, look for education budget increases in the 2013-14 budgets. Related articles State Tax Collections Tick Up (online.wsj.com) Study: States' revenues up, localities lagging...

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